Alright. It's time to get serious about cutting features. *Puts on game face*
Last night I went through the skill tree and cut absolutely everything that I didn't have immediate plans for. Meaning that any time a skill either hadn't already been fully implemented and tested, hadn't already been worked into a quest or didn't serve the core gameplay in a concrete way it got cut. Some of them may make their way back in during the beta, especially if it turns out there's a hole in the balance, but even so, it hurts to see some of them go.
Snip snip. Gotta get this beta out the door.
I also merged several skills that were related and turned them into bonuses for existing skills whenever possible. All told we cut everything down from 86 skills to 57. Nothing major was lost - all the survival skills and magic skills are mostly in place - but a lot of the 'fringe' skills that are just fun-sounding had to be dumped. Horseback riding was one. I loved the idea (and again, I may still implement it during or after the beta) but with all the other travel options there was no reason to include it.
I'm also cutting back on the level of customization between different regions. I'd planned to have more different in architecture in residences between northern and southern regions. It's going to be limited to texture variation now. Thankfully the terrain is varied enough to help make up for it. (And we've already seen how big a difference textures alone can make between two separate regions
.) I'm not too broken up about this one.
No creatures have to be cut, praise the gaming gods. And we already have our cast of characters so we won't see a loss in NPC variety.
One that really hurts is the Obex temples. I already have a pretty decent suite of Obex assets (you've seen them in early gameplay trailers and screenshots) but getting them properly finished would take way too long. So I'll be modifying a set of generic assets for the temples. I hate resorting to more generic assets - I've already had to use them to patch the holes in my above-ground structure templates - but at least I can retexture them with my Obex textures and sort of make them my own. Blarg. Oh well, whatever - the end result will be the same from the player's perspective, and that's all that matters. In fact the end result will be better
from the player's perspective. Gotta hang on to that.
This one stinks too - I'm eliminating destructible structures. Not entirely, because several structures have to be destroyed during the main quest, but I'm eliminating the ability for any random structure to be destroyed. This is something that may return in an algorithmic form, because currently it relies on me creating a destroyed variation of each structure. If I can find time to write a system that intelligently removes and blackens / scorches the appropriate parts of a structure template - and I don't see why that's not possible, though it would be difficult - then it'll be back on the menu. But given how fringe this feature already was, I have a feeling it's gone for good. (I'll keep the destructibility system fully in place for modders, of course.)
Okay, and the number one feature I'm bummed about cutting is: paths modifying foliage. The plan has always been for stuff like grass and ferns and other foliage - anything that isn't a tree, basically - to get pruned away when you lay down a new path. I've got it partly working, but this is purely
aesthetic so I can't justify finishing it. Paths will work the same with or without it. So I'm cutting it. (Stay strong, Lars.) This is one I will be adding to the game post-release if I have to. It may not affect gameplay but goddamn it, it's just too cool not to include somehow.
On the additive
side of things: I've finalized how archaeology will work. (You saw a tidbit in the University video, but only of the end result.) I'll save the play-by-play for next month's Kickstarter update but I predict you're going to like it. It's not crazy complicated and it relies mostly on existing mechanics (crafting, bartering, examining) but it's a multi-step process with four independent skills involved.[edit: There's been some confusion elsewhere about what I meant about cutting paths modifying foliage. The paths in general are NOT getting cut - you'll still create paths, alter paths, fast travel with paths and so on. All that's getting cut is a purely visual impact that paths would have had on their environment. So don't worry, FRONTIERS hasn't lost its only truly unique feature. I'd cut whole regions before I cut that.
Also, I shy away from bringing up modding in situations like this because I don't believe in leaving features unfinished and then saying 'modders can fill in that gap.' I feel that's a form of laziness / passing the buck. But because of the way I save and load foliage data and chunk data, implementing this visual feature after the game's release won't be difficult. So even if I never get around to implementing it myself post-release, someone else will, I'm confident of that.]
Language is to the mind more than light is to the eye.